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Exploring the capital’s African heritage
The National Trust, in conjunction with the Idekeda Group, recently hosted the first of many tours of the African Heritage sites of Port-of-Spain. Led by Eintou Pearl Springer, founder of the National Heritage Library and cultural chair of the Emancipation Support Committee, the tour was based on Springer’s newly published book entitled African Heritage Sites in Trinidad and Tobago.
The short book, which details approximately 15 heritage sites in T&T, was sponsored for publication by the Ministry of National Diversity.
The six-hour tour took participants to lesser-known areas of local African history including Maycock Place in Belmont, one of the first houses to be built on land owned by freed slaves and the Treasury building, said by some to be the site of a post-emancipation slave riot, as well as more well known sites like the Savannah, which was formerly a plantation and burial ground, and the Magnificent Seven.
Springer, who retired as the director of the National Heritage Library and has dedicated her entire professional career to heritage work, is very invested in our local history, as she says “understanding our history is crucial to understanding what happens with the local African presence.”
As the publication of the book was in partnership with the National Trust and the National Archives, there are plans to include copies of the book in every school, and to make them available in libraries, the first step in mass education being to make the information more accessible to the population.
There are also plans to expand the scope of the book and cover more of the local heritage sites, but this will require more time and research. For now, people have been appreciative that the existing information can be found in one place.
Springer and her daughter Dara Healy, the founder of Idekeda, are both passionate about the importance of documenting the legacy of African people in T&T as a means of empowering current generations to strive for better.
In future, the tours will take place at the beginning of each month, with more frequent tours during the July and August school holidays.
There are also plans to do tours during African Liberation Month in May, and African History Month in November, as well as to open up the tours to interested foreign parties and tourists, and diasporic West Indians.
“The tours will continue as often as possible and as long as people request them,” said Healy.